Accident Database

Report ID# 8029

  • Other
  • Does not Apply
  • High Water

Accident Description

April 26 Rick Norber age 65 and 3 friends put-in at Ponca Landing on the Buffalo River. The water alpeady high was predicted to rise. The 4 paddlers set off in 4 canoes on a 4 day 22 mile fishing/camping trip.They refused the outfitters safty talk saying that "they had been doing these trips for years" Before they set off they were warned not to camp above the Kyles Landing access as those camp sites are prone to flooding.

They did camp a short distance above Kyles and woke up to a rapidly flooding camp. They quickly loaded their boats and took off and a short distance downstream encountered one of the larger rapids in the National Park.Grey Rock Shoals A.K.A. Hell's Half Acre is at normal flow a series sloped ledges that kick up small waves and scrape at the backs of boats, requiring skill to find the deapest chanels. The rapid ends in a slighly under cut rock with much of the current pushing toward it. At high water it is a torrent of large waves difficult to nagotiate with fully loaded canoes.

2 of the 4 canoes tipped in the rapid one victims swam to an island where he was rescued by National Park personal. Mr Norber was last seen floating past Kyles Landing. the search was begun that day but was discontinued at dark. Multible rescue squads from a large area along with the National Park Service and the Arkansas Canoe Club throughly searched the mile of river below Kyles for the next two day, without results. The canoes along with many personal effects were found durring the search. Efforts were called off Friday night April  28 because of additional rain in the forcast. The Buffalo River was closed because of the extreme flooding those rains caused. The body was finally recovered on May 6, 4 miles downstream of Kyles.

 River rescue underway on the Buffalo;

big rain ahead sparks fears of more Ozarks flooding

Springfield, AR News-Leader


Published 4:49 p.m. CT April 26, 2017

One paddler is still missing while another was safely rescued Wednesday on the Buffalo National River after their canoes capsized in the flooded river.

Park spokesman Caven Clark said late Wednesday that search teams will try again Thursday to find the missing paddler, last seen floating past Kyles Landing.

Shortly after 3 p.m. a paddler stranded on an island in the river upstream from Kyles Landing was located and brought to shore. Apart from being cold he was in good condition.

The search for the other individual continued until about 6 p.m. Wednesday and will resume Thursday morning.

According to Clark, the incident began when a group of four men in four canoes decided to tackle the flood waters Wednesday morning above Kyles.

Two canoes managed to traverse the distance safely but two others overturned. The missing individual was last reported in the water across from the launch site at Kyles and has not been seen since.

National Park Service rangers responded to the area and conducted a “hasty” search by land on both sides of the river to quickly attempt to locate the individuals.

At about 2:30 p.m. one Zodiac, one raft, and two kayaks were launched from Steel Creek to conduct a systematic search. In addition to the National Park Service Rangers, Buffalo National River Search & Rescue Team, others included a team of AmeriCorps workers, Harrison Swift Water Rescue, and the Newton County Sherriff’s Department.

More flooding likely this weekend

For the second weekend in a row, area rivers and streams — including the Buffalo  — will likely be flooded as a massive surge of moisture is expected to dump up to 6 inches of rain on the Ozarks, according to the National Weather Service in Springfield.

After a short dry spell Thursday, substantial rainfall is expected Friday through Sunday, and it will land on soil that's already saturated, increasing the likelihood of flooding. Last weekend, the Buffalo National River in Arkansas and the Current and Jacks Fork rivers in the Ozarks were closed to paddlers for a time due to flood conditions.

Higher amounts of rain are in the forecast again this weekend, so paddlers or campers are encouraged to check river conditions before considering heading out.

The heaviest rain is expected to fall Friday through Sunday from northwest Arkansas through southern Missouri, where 3 to 6 inches of rainfall is forecast, with locally higher amounts, according to the weather service. Widespread flooding is possible, along with strong to severe thunderstorms Friday into Saturday across southern Missouri.

"Those with outdoor and travel plans for this upcoming weekend should pay close attention to the forecast as there is the potential for multiple weather hazards, including the potential for widespread flooding," the weather service notes in its hazardous outlook forecast.

About the major rivers

Ozark National Scenic Riverways officials encouraged people to view the park's Facebook page for updates on likely river closings and flood conditions on the Jacks Fork and Current rivers.

Expecting another round of flooding, Buffalo National River park officials said they were taking precautionary steps toward ensuring visitor safety and minimizing damage to park infrastructure.

By Friday, many areas, including Tyler Bend Campground, will be closed until the flood abates. The process of shutting off utilities in campsites has already begun in selected areas.

The Steel Creek concert featuring National Park Radio, rescheduled after last weekend’s inclement weather for this Saturday, has been postponed until further notice.

Buffalo River visitors are asked to exercise extreme caution in all areas near the river. Water crossings such as those at Rush, Webb Branch, Erbie and others will likely become unusable, possibly trapping visitors on the “wrong” side. Even the Lost Valley Trail should be avoided, given the past history of flash floods in that area.

The beautiful weather on Tuesday and a possible break between the storms on Thursday should not lull visitors into hazardous situations, according to park officials. Float trips are not recommended as the Buffalo River is already running at high stages and will very likely be in flood stage soon.

Basic safety rules apply: if the water is high, brown and carrying debris, it is not safe for any recreational activity. Report any accidents to the park’s dispatch at 888-692-1162. For general questions regarding closures of campgrounds, call the Tyler Bend Visitor Center at 870-439-2502 or Buffalo Point at 870-449-4311.

Corps lakes affected 

The Army Corps of Engineers is advising people in flood plains downstream of Beaver, Table Rock, Bull Shoals and Norfork dams in northern Arkansas and southern Missouri as well as Greer Ferry Lake in central Arkansas to maintain awareness and monitor lake levels and the weather.

These lakes’ flood pools are partially full from recent rains and more rain is forecast in coming days. Table Rock Lake already was releasing water through five of the dam's spillways, in part because one of its turbine generators was shut down for maintenance.

The Corps cautioned people to decide beforehand whether to move livestock, equipment and belongings to higher ground. Flows downstream can increase quickly, with perhaps no more than an hour or two notice; and rapidly changing conditions can create even shorter notice.

The closer to a dam you are, the faster changes in river conditions can occur when releases from a dam are changed. The National Weather Service maintains river forecast data that be accessed at the following link: .


2 paddlers missing on swollen Buffalo River; 1 person located

Wes Johnson , WJOHNSON@NEWS-LEADER.COM 3:36 p.m. CT April 26, 2017

Rescuers were trying to reach two canoe paddlers who went missing on the rain-swollen Buffalo National River Wednesday afternoon.

Park spokesman Caven Clark said Buffalo National River authorities received a call at 11 a.m. that two paddlers were in trouble on the upper Buffalo, near Kyles Landing between Ponca and Pruitt.

Shortly after 3 p.m., one paddler was reported safe on an upstream island, but without means of reaching either shore. The other paddler was in the river downstream from Kyles Landing.

National Park Service rangers responded to the area and conducted a “hasty” search by land on both sides of the river to quickly attempt to locate the paddlers. Observers reported debris, including a cooler, and a personal flotation device floating downstream from what was likely the site of a canoe capsize.

At 2:30 p.m., two rescue boats had been launched from the Steel Creek access to conduct a systematic search. In addition to the Buffalo National River Search and Rescue Team, others involved include a team of AmeriCorps workers, Harrison Swift Water Rescue, and the Newton County Sherriff’s Department.

An incident command system is in place and visitors are requested to avoid the Kyles Landing area while the search is active. The search will be continued until dark, and will resume Thursday morning if necessary.

Search for 65-year-old missing floater continues Thursday on Buffalo River

Posted: Thursday, April 27, 2017 11:28 am |

Search for 65-year-old missing floater continues Thursday on Buffalo River

Newton County Sheriff’s Investigator Glenn Wheeler said the search for missing floater Aaron Ricky “Rick” Norber, 65, of the St. Louis, Missouri, area resumed Thursday morning.

Wheeler said Norber was one of four men on a float trip and camped Tuesday night along the Buffalo National River between Steel Creek and Kyles Landing. Rising waters from heavy rains trapped the group who attempted to float out to safety about 11 a.m. Wednesday

Each of the four individuals was in their own canoe, although not canoes designed for solo paddling. The group was also carrying camping gear for a multi-day trip.

Shortly after getting back on the water, the group encountered trouble and three of the four canoes turned over. One of the individuals was later rescued on an island upstream of Kyles Landing, Wheeler said.

Two other individuals made it to the campground at Kyles Landing and the fourth, later identified as Norber, was last seen by witnesses passing Kyles Landing.He was in the water, not in a canoe. Witnesses last saw him approximately 150 yards downstream from Kyles Landing, Wheeler said.

The river level at the time of the incident was at flood stage. Water levels dropped substantially overnight and conditions were greatly improved as the search resumed Thursday morning.

“We are making a huge push today while we have a good weather window,” Wheeler said. “We are still very much in search and rescue mode due to several indicators that survivability is still viable.”

Searchers from the Newton County Sheriff’s Office, Tri-County Search and Rescue, Newton County Office of Emergency Services, National Park Service, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Arkansas Forestry Commission, Mennonite Disaster Services and local volunteers are involved in the search, and the American Red Cross is on scene assisting with support of the searchers.

“We have a good, professional group of searchers working on finding this gentleman and are putting forth all efforts possible while we can before more bad weather and even bigger flood waters hamper our efforts,” Wheeler said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to him, his family and the rest of the group that was with him.”

Wheeler said local officials want visitors to float the river and have a positive experience. But when weather conditions make the trip treacherous, it would be better to abandon a trip even if it had been planned for months.

“You can’t beat the river,” he said.



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